Two Glasgow men who tried to smuggle heroin into Shetland in separate incidents after each falling into debt because of their own drug problems were sentenced to more than three years in jail when they appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday.
Thomas Benjamin Shields, 28, a prisoner in Aberdeen, swallowed four packages of the class A drug with a maximum street value of over £11,000 before boarding an afternoon flight from Glasgow Airport to Sumburgh on 16th October while on bail. He was arrested after coming off the plane following an intelligence-led operation by police.
Three days later Robert Anthony Bradley, 23, whose address was given as Barlinnie Prison, was caught at the Holmsgarth Ferry Terminal in Lerwick after swallowing condoms with just over 81 grammes of heroin worth £11,393 in a street-level deal. They were each given 40 months.
Bradley’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Amanda Cairns, of Glasgow’s Haghill area, helped him by herself concealing quantities of the drug in the same way. Sentence on her was deferred for one year for her to be of good behaviour.
Their appearance in the dock followed the release this week of a report by Northern Constabulary which stated that almost £200,000 of controlled substances, such as heroin, were seized in Shetland during 2008/09.
On Thursday the court heard that Shields willingly gave up the drugs weighing just over 113 grammes when he was arrested and co-operated fully with police.
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said Shields had lived a “chaotic lifestyle” and had been “indebted to an organised-crime group”.
The court heard Shields owed over £2,000 to the men and his debt would be reduced by £400 by trafficking the heroin to Shetland.
“From what he has told police during the subsequent enquiry it would be fair to say that although he was not coerced in a strictly legal sense, for all practical purposes he felt difficulty in refusing them.”
Defence agent Ian Sievwright said Shields, a single man originally from Maryhill in Glasgow, had been “heavily involved in the consumption of drugs”, and had built up a large debt to those involved in the Glasgow drug trade.
“He managed to avoid the persons he owed this money for quite some time through either being in custody or the people he owed being in custody,” said Mr Sievwright.
In the end Shields was hunted down by the dealers. The court heard Shields was approached in Glasgow and taken into a car before being told in “no uncertain terms” to transfer the drugs to Shetland.
“He was told harm would be done to both himself and his mother if he didn’t do what they asked him to do,” added the defence agent.
On the day in question Shields met one of the men involved and was told to swallow the drugs in front of them before being taken to Glasgow Airport for the 2pm flight to Sumburgh.
“There was intelligence at this end and Mr Shields was arrested at the airport and co-operated with the police.”
He asked Sheriff Graeme Napier to take into account Shields’ early plea and the mitigating circumstances surrounding the offence itself.
In a separate case, the court heard the same group of Glasgow drug dealers put pressure on Bradley to carry another batch of heroin to the isles to replace the drugs that had been seized following Shields’ arrest.
“It is the belief of the Crown that those behind this enterprise are the same organised criminals involving an earlier incident involving Heroin being taken here,” Mr MacKenzie told the court.
He added Bradley and Cairns were stopped by another inteligence-led operation. Bradley was given £250 to cover his travelling expenses.
Defence agent Martin Lavery said Bradley had been in custody since he was first detained last October. He said Bradley had run up “substantial debts” after struggling to feed his cocaine habit.
“On one occasion somebody came to his door with a handgun, and this was all related to the debt he had accrued.”
Bradley, who lived with Cairns in Maryhill, moved house in a bid to evade the drug dealers. However they tracked him down and forced him to take the drugs to Shetland.
“It was made clear to him what would happen to him if he didn’t do this,” said Mr Lavery.
Bradley was told to swallow condoms containing the drugs, but was unable to accommodate them all.
Cairns was concerned for his safety and swallowed three of the condoms herself.
Mr Lavery said Cairns had understood the condoms to contain cocaine, and would have been “less than happy” had he known he was actually ferrying heroin.
Agent for Cairns, Philip Cohen, said she had never taken drugs before and had no previous convictions.
“She was very reluctant to get involved in the first place and when interviewed by police she was distressed and distraught and was crying uncontrollably,” he said.
Sentencing Shields, Sheriff Graeme Napier said Shetland had offered a “lucrative trade” for drug trafficking.
“Quite clearly it’s more lucrative here than in Glasgow. The only thing I can do is make sure that even those involved in trafficking will receive significant custodial sentences.”
Later he added the total value of the drugs taken by Cairns and Bradley was double that smuggled in by Shields.
However he took into account Bradley’s circumstances and set the same starting off point of five years as he had for Shields.
He discounted it by a third and backdated his sentence to 20th October.
Cairns was told to stay out of trouble until 26th January next year. A social inquiry report will be prepared for then.